Eighteen years in the making, centerpiece of Grand Avenue Project — ‘The Grand’ — finally breaks ground

| February 28, 2019 | 0 Comments
THE GRAND AT DUSK, viewed from the roof of The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, showing the Walt Disney Concert Hall at right.

Finally under construction across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a new retail, dining and entertainment destination, to be accompanied by attractive and usable open space, a 309-room hotel and 400 luxury apartments, 20 percent of which will be rented at affordable rates. Dignitaries and just plain “Downtowners” celebrated the milestone groundbreaking under a tent canopy and in front of two performance stages on a closed Grand Ave. on Feb. 11.

Since 2001

The milestone moment is the result of a public-private undertaking that commenced in earnest in 2001 with the creation of the private Grand Avenue Committee. Some observers say the idea of vitalizing the vacant parking lots of Grand Avenue goes back to the walkabout taken up and down the street by Mayor Richard Riordan, Cardinal Roger Mahony and others in 1996. The walkers’ concern was how to realize any of the many visions for Grand Avenue that go back to the razing of homes and other buildings on the hill in 1961.

Reimagining Grand Avenue

TWO TOWERS of The Grand (the taller one apartments, the shorter, northern one, the Equinox Hotel) are shown in this view north on Grand Avenue from above the roof of The Broad.

By September of 2003, the Grand Avenue Committee shared its own vision, which consisted of uniting the separate government entities that often were at odds — the City and the County of Los Angeles — by bringing their representatives together in a joint powers authority focused on just one issue – reimagining Grand Avenue. With the authority formed, experienced developer teams were solicited to propose development of multiple vacant parcels owned either by the city or county, plus the revitalization of the 12-acre County Mall now renamed “Grand Park.” (Full disclosure: this writer’s wife, Martha L. Welborne, FAIA, was hired in 2001 to create and manage the Grand Avenue Committee, which she did for more than a decade.)

Related Companies chosen

THE GRAND COURTYARD at twilight with Frank Gehry sculpture. Grand Avenue is at right.

The developer team selected in August 2004 — Related Companies, headquartered in New York — persisted for 15 years before finally breaking ground on the centerpiece parcel of the Grand Avenue Project last month. During those 15 years, Related paid for the mall’s remake into Grand Park. Related constructed the 19-story Emerson apartment project on the west side of Grand Avenue. Related also saw its adjacent development parcel pass out of its hands and into the hands of Eli Broad, who erected his museum, The Broad, on that site. Related also weathered the late-2000s “Great Recession.” And, still, Related held on. During this long period, Related also engaged as its designer one of the architects who had been on a competing team back in 2004, none other than Frank Gehry of Gehry Partners.

Construction underway

With that new team, Related plus Gehry, and with funding that came recently through Related’s new partner in the project, CORE USA, a joint venture of China Harbour Engineering Company and CCCG Overseas Real Estate (CORE), construction work actually got underway in 2018. Months ago, the “Tinkertoy” parking structure on the east side of Grand Avenue was demolished — 50 years after it was erected “temporarily” in the 1960s. Then, serious excavation of the large block got underway — for 1,000-plus parking spaces and the foundations for the two towers, one 20 stories high and the other 39 stories high, and for the 176,000 square feet of new retail, dining and entertainment buildings.

Groundbreaking ceremonies

BRASS ENSEMBLE from the Los Angeles Philharmonic kicks off groundbreaking festivities under the clear canopy erected in Grand Ave.

The Feb. 11 dignitaries who were savoring all this progress (and speaking about it) were welcomed to the morning ceremonies by festive fanfares from the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Brass Ensemble. Included in the program were Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Hilda Solis, architect Gehry, former Grand Avenue Committee chairs Eli Broad and Nelson Rising, and the developer’s executives including Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross and president and CEO of Related Urban, Kenneth Himmel. Later in the morning’s program, there was a panel discussion among Messrs. Broad, Gehry, Ross and Rising, moderated by KCRW’s Frances Anderton.

PANEL DISCUSSION moderated by Frances Anderton, left, features: Eli Broad, Frank Gehry, Stephen Ross and Nelson Rising.

Wrapping things up — before and after photos with groundbreaking shovels — were more performances from the Music Center as well as the Colburn School. The morning’s culmination was a block party with food from many hip local restaurants including Howlin’ Rays, Ma’am Sir, and more.

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Category: Real Estate

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